Robot Brain Grows As It Learns

This robot's brain grows in size as its physical complexity increases; the multi-legged robot has neural net software that grows by assigning new neuron clusters on top of existing structures as new limbs are attached. An incremental evolutionary algorithm (IEA) gives it the ability to add new parts to its brain.


(Robot brain grows as the robot's complexity grows)

In human brains, the earliest structure, the reptilian brain, is mostly focused on the survival of the organism, controlling muscles, balance and autonomic functions. It is covered by the limbic brain, which records experience to create emotion and facilitates learning. Finally, the overlying neocortex is responsible for human culture, allowing the development of language and abstract thought.

Artificial intelligence engineer Christopher MacLeod and his colleagues at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, UK, have arranged for the robot to evolve in hours. It accomplishes in this short time what animals have done over hundreds of millions of years.

The team started with a simple robot the size of a paperback book, with two rotatable pegs for legs that could be turned by motors through 180 degrees. They then gave the robot's six-neuron control system its primary command - to travel as far as possible in 1000 seconds. The software then set to work evolving the fastest form of locomotion to fulfil this task.

"It fell over mostly, in a puppyish kind of way," says MacLeod. "But then it started moving forward and not falling over straight away - and then it got better and better until it could eventually hop along the bench like a mudskipper."

When the IEA realises that its evolutions are no longer improving the robot's speed it freezes the neural network it has evolved, denying it the ability to evolve further. That network knows how to work the peg legs - and it will continue to do so.

At this point, it is just like any other evolved robot: it would be unable to cope with the addition of knee-like joints, say, or more legs. But unlike conventional EAs, the IEA is sensitive to a sudden inability to live up to its primary command. So when the team fixed jointed legs to their robot's pegs, the software "realises" that it has to learn how to walk all over again. To do this, it automatically assigns itself fresh neurons to learn how to control its new legs.

This innocent tale of machine evolution reminds me of a somewhat darker version provided by Philip K. Dick in his 1953 short story Second Variety:

"Interesting, isn't it?"

"What?"

"This, the new types. The new varieties of claws. We're completely at their mercy, aren't we? By now they've probably gotten into the UN lines, too. It makes me wonder if we're not seeing the beginning of a new species. The new species. Evolution. The race to come after man." (Read more about Dick's claws)

Update: See also the Vulcan 3 computer from Dick's 1960 novel Vulcan's Hammer for an example of a large computer system that modifies itself extensively. End update.

From New Scientist. See also this paper The Development of Modular Evolutionary Networks for Quadrupedal Locomotion [pdf] and this article from Electronics World - Minds for Robots [pdf].

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/9/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 3 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

Abundant Robotics Autonomous Apple Harvester Robot
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant... cutting off the ripe fruit.' Otfrid von Hanstein, 1935.

China Building Robot Wives
'Want a life-companion, a pleasant one?' - Alice W. Fuller, 1895.

Stan, Robot Valet, Will Drag Your Car Away
'He activated the grapple tracks. ' - Frank Herbert, 1977.

Jibo Home Robot Says Goodbye, Is Killswitched
'It resembles an oyster....' Philip K. Dick, 1968.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

BrainEx Restores Some Activity To Severed Pig Head
'... they placed the brain in a special solution, having all the properties of Nursing the brain cells.'

Yes, But Do Astrobees Have Lasers For Lightsaber Training?
'... Ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.'

'Young Razorbacks Before Their Katanas Grow In'
'Twin robotic arms with gleaming three-foot sword blades unfolded from the forward hydraulic assemblies...'

A New Way To Run Into Things
'He made an adjustment, pointed the tube at the wall beside Etzwane, and projected a cone of light.'

'Metallic Wood' Strong Like Titanium, Floats In Water
'A metal... light as cork and stronger than steel...'

Seabreacher, H.G. Winter's 1939 Torpoon
'Ken lay full-length in the padded body compartment, his feet resting on the controlling bars of the directional planes, hands on the torpoon's engine levers.'

Abundant Robotics Autonomous Apple Harvester Robot
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant... cutting off the ripe fruit.'

Charging An Electric Car In 2019 (Video), 1912 (Photo) And 1894 (Fiction)
'Recharge the batteries... in almost every town and village...'

Japan Uses Explosives On Asteroid
'...a tiny, rocket-powered projectile, drove towards the mysterious bulk. It hit, exploding into a cloud of incandescent vapour.'

Get Your Speeder Flying Motorcycle From Jetpack Aviation
'The flycycles were miracles of compact design.'

FLIR Black Hornet 3 Palm-sized Drone
These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability.

Dockworkers Protest Driverless Trucks
'It resembled conventional human-operated transportation vehicles, but with one exception -- there was no driver's cabin.'

Flying Car Concept By Kash Sirinanda
'Each one consists of a hub with many tiny spokes... On the end is a squat foot, rubber tread on the bottom...'

Unfurl The Future! Huawei Mate X versus Galaxy Fold
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled silently from the top of the unit and immediately grew rigid.'

Amazon Echo And Google Home Should Have Morality Software
'The Dwoskin Morality Rating-Computer could 'spot the slightest tendency to deviation' from the social norm...'

China Building Robot Wives
'Want a life-companion, a pleasant one?'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.